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First crop of DOE Battery500 seedlings awarded nearly $6M; high-risk, high-reward toward 500 Wh/kg

Announced in 2016, the Battery500 consortium, led by the US Department of Energy (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), intends to build a battery pack with a specific energy of 500 Wh/kg, compared to the 170-200 Wh/kg per kilogram in today’s typical EV battery. (Earlier post.) Achieving this goal would result in a smaller, lighter and less expensive battery, and electric vehicles with significantly extended range.

As part of its efforts, the Battery500 consortium announced the “Seedling” program—new, potentially risky battery technology research projects complementing the core Battery500 research effort (earlier post)—and said it was setting aside a projected 20% of its 5-year, $50-million funding for that purpose, or about $2 million per year. Now, DOE has selected the first crop of seedlings: 15 Phase 1 projects, receiving almost $5.7 million in funding. (Earlier post.) Promising phase 1 awardees will be competitively down-selected at the end of 18 months for a second phase of research.

There was a surge of interest in participating in the Battery500 initiative. When we at DOE said $2 million per year, that was a minimum. There was a lot of interest, and we received a lot of good applications. We found extra money to fund more than we anticipated, including money from the US Army.

— David Howell, Deputy Director, Vehicle Technologies Office, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, US DOE

DOE opted for 18 months for the Phase 1 effort to give the projects enough time to show proof of principle in the proposed technologies, Howell said. For such high-risk projects, 12 months is difficult, and, “we didn’t want to wait two years.”

Source: DOE 2017 Merit Review. Click to enlarge.

The Battery500 project is focused on three keystone projects:

  • A high nickel content cathode with a Li-metal anode;

  • Sulfur cathode and Li-metal anode; and

  • Innovative electrode and cell design.

The Seedling projects are intended to enhance one of the three keystone projects, or to provide new concepts.

We have projects in both areas. Some of the seedlings fill the gaps in expertise, and then some applications propose unique designs. We are very excited about the Seedling applications we have—they fill a lot of the gaps.

If we are going to meet the 500 Wh/kg mark at the cell level, we have to work on a good cathode, put it together with a good electrolyte, maybe solid state, and the anode, all in a unique architecture.

—David Howell

Howell said the Battery500 keystone projects themselves are well underway, with full participation in the annual Merit Review planned for next year.

  • Nickel-rich cathodes today (NMC) have somewhere around 30-40% nickel in the cathode itself. To achieve higher energy density goals, Howell said, you need more nickel. However, that can blowback on cycle life. Howell said that some of the researchers are seeing a 30-40% increase in capacity through using a different binder technology in conjunction with a Li-metal system. He expects a first baseline cell by the end of the first fiscal year and a test by the end of the calendar year.

  • Sulfur coupled with Li metal has the highest energy density outside of Li air systems, Howell said. While there are still huge gains to be made even falling short of the theoretical capacity of the system, there are also significant problems, he noted. Dendrite growth with a Li metal anode can short out the cell within 10-30 cycles. There are a lot of good ideas on how to mitigate those issues, Howell said—but it will take time.

We have made a lot of progress in the past in Li-ion technology. We are taking the expertise and refocusing it on the longer term issues. If we can achieve our targets, that would result in a significant boost in the performance of batteries and a significant reduction in cost.

—David Howell

The new seedling projects were announced 12 July as part of a larger unveiling of a total of $19.4 million in new DOE funding for vehicle technologies research.

Battery500 Seedling Projects – Phase 1 awards (Area of Interest 1)
Description Funding
University of Maryland: College Park Research innovative iron-based materials for high energy cathodes for high energy lithium ion battery technologies. $400,000
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Research thick cathodes using freeze casting methods for solid-state lithium batteries. $400,000
Penn State University Park Research multifunctional Li-ion conducting interfacial materials that enable high- performance lithium metal anodes. $399,194
Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, Inc. Research a scalable synthesis to enable very thin coatings on solid state electrolyte membranes to enable high performance Li-Sulfur Battery. $400,000
University of Maryland: College Park Using 3D printed, low tortuosity frameworks, develop solid state Li-ion batteries. $400,000
General Motors LLC Design, engineer, develop, and integrate pouch-format cells for lithium-sulfur batteries to achieve high energy density and long cycle life. $400,000
University of Pittsburgh Research sulfur electrodes utilizing lithium ion conductor (LIC) coatings for high energy density advanced lithium-sulfur (Li-S) batteries. $400,000
Cornell University Research highly loaded sulfur cathodes and conductive carbon coated separators that enable high energy batteries. $360,000
University of Maryland: College Park Research advanced electrolytes to limit dendrite growth in lithium-metal cells. $400,000
Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station Utilize an analytical and experimental approach to examine the interface between solid state electrolytes and lithium-metal anodes and identify potential methods for mitigating dendrite growth. $400,000
Navitas Advanced Solutions Group, LLC Research a solvent-free process to fabricate all-solid Li batteries. $400,000
Wayne State University Research novel full-cell, ultra high-energy Li- metal batteries based on 3-dimensional architectures. $225,000
Oregon State University Research and develop a new process to produce Li2S@graphene composite cathodes to inhibit polysulfides to enhance cycle life. $353,500
SUNY University at Stony Brook Research li-sulfur batteries using a novel sulfur rich nanosheet composite cathode. $400,000
University of Houston Research high-energy solid-state lithium batteries with organic cathode materials. $400,000



Is this the same as USBAC consortium. If so, do not expect too much in the next 10+ years?

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